Sunshine in January: Are You Getting Your Vitamin D?
As we approach the middle of winter, let’s talk about a pressing health concern: vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin.” During these months of long nights and low-intensity sunlight, vitamin D can be in short supply, at the expense of your health. There is a good chance that supplements can do you good, so here is the information.
Why Vitamin D?
Vitamin D may be most famous for its role in bone health, although it is sometimes overlooked in favor of the better-known nutrient calcium. Calcium is indeed the mineral that your bones need to stay strong as you grow older, but vitamin D is the nutrient that allows your body to optimally absorb calcium from food and supplements, and to use it properly once it is absorbed.
Vitamin D is not “just” for bones. Researchers constantly seem to be uncovering new roles of vitamin D in health, and it appears that even sub-clinically low levels of the vitamin – that is, not even an outright diagnosed deficiency – can be harmful. Consider the following:
- Vitamin D may lower risk for certain cancers, type 1 diabetes mellitus, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Low vitamin D is linked to type 2 diabetes.
- Vitamin D deficiency may increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Sunshine and Food
Vitamin D is termed the “sunshine vitamin” because radiation from the sun triggers your skin to produce it for your body, but the system has flaws. You may not be getting enough vitamin D if:
- You live in a northern climate.
- You have darker skin.
- You are an older adult.
- You wear sunblock when you go outside.
- You have had weight loss surgery.
Even if those risk factors do not apply to you, are you absolutely certain that you get out each day in the winter for the required average of 15 minutes? Or are there a few days, here and there, when you are too busy, or the weather is rainy, or you just forget?
As for food, well, most people cannot count on it to give them the vitamin D they need. Fatty fish, such as salmon, is really the only great natural source; some mushrooms, butter, and eggs provide a little, but not much. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D, but milk is the only one that is required, by law, to have it. Milk products such as cheese and yogurt may not.
Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D supplements can help fill the gap between your requirements and your actual intake and production. It needn’t be burdensome to get your D. You can get it in a multivitamin, plus take extra if you need it in your favorite form, such as:
As always when you consider taking a supplement, talk to your doctor before you start. Discuss your concerns and your plans, and get your doctor’s approval before taking vitamin D.
- Alex Brecher